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Public Lecture, Department of Architecture, Cambridge, 27 September: Corviale, "an uncertain dam sub tegmine fagi" rooted in the Rome periphery

last modified Sep 30, 2014 10:39 AM
Dr. Anna Irene Del Monaco, Department of Architecture, DRACO, La Sapienza University of Rome

This lecture was delivered as part of the 'Metamorphoses of the Contemporary City' International Graduate Workshop in Cambridge.

Corviale, a one thousand meters public housing unit built in Rome from 1972 to 1984, is universally known as the biggest scandal, the biggest problem, the biggest myth of modern urban architecture. It seems the extreme fruit of a season that lasted from the middle of the sixties and encompassed the seventies – characterized by a great push for the design of that, which was supposed to be the new democratic Italian city; a richer, more politically driven and more modern one with no less solidarity than the neorealist city right after the war filled with labor, poverty and poetry. The Corviale housing unit has become for sense of estrangement and exile from the city that its first inhabitants had - the great sickness in outskirts of Rome, the deathbed to which we all rushed and continue to rush; everyone including administrators, urban designers, architects and journalists. All this is more due to its exceptional proportions than its size, due to the complications of its monumental system of vertical paths, the useless extension of its galleries and condominium access paths and the desolation of the – unmanageable – service areas. In 1981 on the n.617 of "Domus" Review Manfredo Tafuri wrote an article entitle "A uncertain dam sub tegmine fagi.....". He mantained that "Corviale, devoid of referents in the current urban structure, adopts the signs of "poverty", and in spite of everything is hooked to the site. An "uncertain dam" rooted in a suburb that even the brush of Sironi cannot redeem anymore: in a place where 'inhabiting' is impossible, a monumental aphorism goes down, which speaks of a tragic conflict between unity and differences."